Printed electrodes set to bring budget green hydrogen

EMEC hydrogen storage cylinders (Photo: Colin Keldie)

Researchers at Manchester Metropolitan University will test a novel and cheaper way of producing electrodes for electrolysers used for hydrogen conversion that could make green hydrogen more affordable for off-grid communities.

Namely, using screen-printed nanotechnology the university researchers will test alternate way of manufacturing electrodes that are used in electrolysers to convert water into oxygen and hydrogen.

EMEC hydrogen storage cylinders (Photo: Colin Keldie)

These devices are reliant on components made out of expensive platinum and iridium, metal elements whose cost prohibits cheap reproduction.

Under the project, the Manchester Metropolitan University team – lead by Craig Banks, Professor in Electrochemical and Nanotechnology – plan to screen print a succession of electrodes with the necessary graphene-like nanotechnology embedded in the fluid carbon-based printer ink.

EMEC elecotrolyser (Photo: Colin Keldie)

The screen-printing technique, which will take place at the University’s new £4 million Manchester Fuel Cell Innovation Centre, would enable the electrodes to be printed in novel geometries as well as allowing them to be mass produced for industrial applications.

Manchester Metropolitan University’s prototype electrodes will be fitted into a stack of water electrolysis cells that then will be ‘harsh weather tested’ on Scotland’s Orkney archipelago.

The researchers are collaborating with the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC), the world-leading test and development centre for wave and tidal devices based on Orkney, Scotland, to research the capabilities and performance of the screen-printed electrolysers, the cells and the fuel cells.

There will be six months of electrode development at the University followed by installation of the electrolyser stack in Scotland and connection to a renewable energy system and a further six months’ testing, according to EMEC.

Research associate Samuel Rowley-Neale said:

“The electricity generated by wind, wave, tidal and solar power is often ill correlated to consumer demand and typically has to be fed into the National Grid where it is used instantly or must be expensively captured somehow, such as in a battery – which has issues with degradation – or else the turbines have to be shut off to ensure the generated electricity does not overload the electricity grid.

“That means it is difficult to balance the electricity being generated to the level of demand.

“In contrast, an electrolyser creates hydrogen that can be easily stored and physically transported as a gas with no deterioration and then later fed into a fuel cell for conversion to power when needed. And unlike the burning of fossil fuels, the only by-product is oxygen and some water that are harmless to the environment.”

Jon Clipsham, Hydrogen Development Manager at EMEC, added: “EMEC have been pioneering the development of hydrogen production from tidal technologies, and this project will help the team at Manchester Metropolitan University gain a significant understanding of how their technology works in real life setting.”

The overarching goal of the research is to provide a green source of power that could be harnessed by remote communities who are off the electricity grid and reliant on imported diesel and petrol for generators.